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Hanshan Temple

Hanshan Temple is one of Suzhou's greatest landmarks and most active Buddhist temples. It is located in Maple Bridge town in the west outskirts of Suzhou alongside the ancient Grand Canal and several ancient bridges which cross it. The temple was constructed in the Jiannian Reign of the Liang Dynasty (502-519) with a history of over 1400 years. A famous monk, Hanshan, was said to have been in charge of the temple during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) so it was named after him.

Destroyed and rebuilt for many times, the present complex mainly dates from the Qing dynasty at the time of Emperors Guangxu and Xuantong. Shrouded in the lush forests, and built with glazed tiles and yellow walls Hanshan Temple was crisscross with winding paths and overgrown with verdant pines and cypresses. The main architectural structures in this temple include the main hall, the wing halls, the bell tower, the hall of scriptures, verandas with tablets, the tower of Fengjian etc.

In the middle of the temple is the main hall of Buddha.The stone pedestal for Buddhas is sculptured on its sides with 36 poems by Hanshan and the images of Shide and Banwu in bold outline. Enshrined in the right wing hall are two obese figures, the statues of Hanshan and Shide seated on an enormous lotus flower-shaped basin.

The Bell Tower is an important component of the Hanshan Temple. When the bell is tolling, the deep strokes that echo in the halls mix with the deep-toned chants of the monks evoking both a solemn and reverent feelings for all worshippers in the temple. The poet of the Tang Dynasty Zhang Ji's famous poem "Night Anchoring beside Fengqiao Bridge" refers to this place, "Moonfall. Crows cry in a sky full of frost. / Maple Bridge. Lamps of fishermen doze off in the gloom. / Away from the town of Suzhou stands Hanshan Temple, / The chime of its midnight bell reaches as far as my boat."
The bell mentioned in Zhangji's poem has long been lost and the present one was made in 1906 during the Qing Dynasty. Nowadays the temple has become famous for the annual "tolling of the bells" on New Year's Eve that attracts thousands of worshippers. One hundred and eight bell tolls at the same time praying for luck and happiness in the New Year.

There are cultural relics including a stone tablet inscribed with the poem "A Night Mooring at Maple Bridge", stone carvings and a large number of steles inside the Hanshan Temple.

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